Each week we highlight the best insights and analysis from top business and self-improvement books.
Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber
By: Mike Isaac33-MINUTE AUDIO / 4,111 WORDS (13 PAGES)
SYNOPSISUber's growth was fuelled by obsessive product focus, broken rules, growth at all costs and minimal bureaucracy. However, the same traits eventually proved to be bottlenecks in Uber's transition from a scrappy startup into one of the world's largest and most influential companies.
Within a year, Uber lost nearly 20 billion dollars in valuation and faced half a dozen federal investigations. Learn how Uber broke the law, developed a product that has not been banned and dominated the transportation industry.
TOP 20 INSIGHTSKickstart demand for both sides of your marketplace to create rapid growth. Uber perfected a playbook to launch the service in any city worldwide at a rapid pace. An Uber City Launcher from headquarters would parachute into the city, flood craigslist with driver ads that offer hundreds of dollars in bonuses, and free rides to customers. This strategy to kickstart demand on the two-sided marketplace was expensive, but it turbocharged growth. Once demand picked up, Uber hired a local City Manager to manage operations in the city.
While it's not a good idea for everyone, if you don’t fear regulation, you can often beat it — at least for a little while. Uber's DNA was designed to evade the law and fight regulators who wanted to shut the service down. In every city, Uber's employees and drivers faced threats from law enforcement and local taxi unions. Uber urged drivers to stay on the road even if they got ticketed. The company would bear all costs. To Kalanick, fines and tickets were just the cost of business.
Out-grow your critics. Uber's strategy to blindside transportation regulators was to outpace them. When Uber entered a new city, it moved so fast that, before regulators could respond, it would be too late with thousands of Ubers already active in the city.
Companies that inspire loyalty can rally users to fight for their cause. When New York's mayor Bill de Blasio threatened to cap the number of cars on the road, the app showed its users a screen titled "De Blasio's Uber" with few cabs and wait times of 30 minutes. Users could send an email to the mayor and city council with a single click. By 2015, over half a million drivers and users in America had signed petitions to support Uber.
Empower every employee to be a mini-founder. Kalanick demanded ownership from his employees, offered significant autonomy and complete support. City Managers could spend millions in driver and rider incentives without permission from headquarters as long as they met growth targets. Uber's approach worked because City Manager's understood local people and institutions better than anyone at headquarters.
Uber's product and user experience were so good that it had a negative churn rate. The total revenue from current customers was more than the revenue lost from cancellations. Uber's data showed that by the time a customer used Uber an average of just 2.7 times, they became a long-term user.
Uber invested heavily to rewrite laws in its favor. Uber regularly topped the list of lobbying spenders in multiple US states. Uber invested tens of millions of dollars to sway legislation. At one time, Uber employed over 400 paid lobbyists across 44 states, more than the combined lobbying staff of Amazon, Microsoft and Walmart.
A great startup can make VCs compete to invest in it. Kalanick took advantage of Uber's massive popularity to invert the fundraising model. Startups usually go on a roadshow to pitch their company to investors to raise funds. Uber instead staged a HomeShow where investors came to Uber's headquarters to compete for a chance to invest in Uber. Kalanick did not
Competing Against Luck
By: Clayton M. Christensen, Tadd Hall, Karen Dillon, and David S. Duncan22-MINUTE AUDIO / 3,117 WORDS (8 PAGES)
SYNOPSISIs innovation inherently a question of luck? While good luck is never a bad thing, it turns out that innovation is more science than magic.
Jobs Theory is a tool to innovate in a meaningful (and profitable) way. If you take the time to understand the real "job" that your customers hire your product to perform, then competition, innovation, and strategies become clear.
Learn how to emulate the methodology behind everything from baking soda toothpaste to Airbnb into your own business.
TOP 20 INSIGHTSThe Theory of Jobs to Be Done, or Jobs Theory explores why customers choose certain products over others. People "hire" products to fill a particular "job" in their lives. For example, the job of a milkshake can be a reward for your child or to make a morning commute more enjoyable.
In Jobs Theory, a "job" is defined as the progress of a person in a particular circumstance. In the author’s milkshake case study, morning commuters chose the thick dessert because it staved off mid-morning hunger, provided energy, and was easier to consume on the drive than traditional breakfast foods like bagels.
If you understand your product’s “resume,” it can help you understand what job your customers want to fill and what your competitors are. If you know a product's resume, you can change your approach and market your product as the best candidate. V8 doesn’t just compete against sugary drinks and other juices but also raw vegetables.
Circumstances help dictate the job for a product to fill and, by extension, predict customer behavior. Innovation should not focus solely on functional needs but consider other aspects such as social and emotional ones. A daycare might be conveniently located and affordable, but parents will emphasize trust and safety.
Analyze your product’s job as if it’s a mini-documentary about your customer while they try to make progress in a specific situation. Look at the goal, struggle, and obstacles. Take note of what the person does to "make do" until they reach their goal. What tradeoffs will they purposefully make?
Once you understand your customers’ "Job to Be Done," you can bring your company's goal into sharp focus. You can reveal opportunities to innovate or make your product more attractive. For example, Intuit created QuickBooks because customers used Quicken to “make do” as they managed their businesses finances.
There is no one right way to identify Jobs to be Done. Don’t fixate on the tools you use, but rather the information you seek and how you piece observations together. You don’t have to throw out data you have already gathered -- look at it all through a new lens.
Sometimes Jobs to Be Done defies traditional data predictions. Sony temporarily halted its Walkman cassette player when market research predicted its failure. Sony founder Akio Morita chose to observe how people lived and predicted what they might want instead. Sony sold over 330 milli
The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
By: Benjamin Graham31-MINUTE AUDIO / 4,156 WORDS (8 PAGES)
SYNOPSISThis book will not teach you how to beat the market. However, it will teach you how to reduce risk, protect your capital from loss and reliably generate sustainable returns over the long run. Warren Buffett calls the Intelligent Investor "by far the best book on investing ever written."
Benjamin's proven value investing approach replaces risky attempts to project future share prices with sound investments based on the underlying value of the company's tangible assets.
The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham gives you everything you need to equip yourself with the investor's mindset necessary to avoid the panic of market fluctuations that plague the ordinary investor. Don’t be ordinary. Be intelligent.
TOP 20 INSIGHTSThere are two kinds of investors. Defensive investors aim to protect their capital from losses, generate decent returns and minimize frequent decisions. Enterprising investors devote most of their time to manage their portfolios actively. An enterprising investor does not take more risks than a defensive investor but invests more in stock selection.
Part-time investors should stick to defensive investment strategies. Defensive investors can achieve a decent result with minimum effort and capability. However, even a marginal improvement from this result is challenging and requires extraordinary knowledge and skill. An attempt to outsmart the market by spending a little extra time and effort will primarily result in below-average gains.
Confusing speculation with investment can be a costly mistake. Speculators buy hot stocks based on future growth prospects. In contrast, investment is made on a thorough analysis of the underlying business to ensure the safety of principal and adequate — but not extraordinary — gain. Invest in a stock only when you can comfortably own it without following its daily share price.
If you cannot resist the urge to bet on the next big growth stock, set strict limits on speculation. Keep a separate speculative account with less than 10% of your capital for speculative activities. Never mix money from the investment account and speculation account.
It's a risky idea to speculate on high-growth industries, and high-growth stocks are a risky idea. The growth prospects for a business do not necessarily result in profits for investors. Because these stocks are often overpriced, growth may not result in proportional returns. Only eight of the largest 150 companies on the Fortune 500 list managed to grow earnings by at least 15% over two decades.
Graham strongly urges investors to stay away from Initial Public Offerings. IPOs often happen in bull markets and lead to inflated valuations. When the bear market begi
Your Strategy Needs a Strategy
By: Martin Reeves32-MINUTE AUDIO / 3,857 WORDS (15 PAGES)
SYNOPSISWe live in a business world that is in constant flux. But when you learn and understand the five strategy archetypes and how to execute them, you will master your journey through this turbulent land of opportunity.
In Your Strategy Needs a Strategy, authors Martin Reeves, Knut Haanæs, and Janmejaya Sinha explain how to navigate these various approaches and avoid common pitfalls.
With a solid foundation of the five archetypal approaches, create a "pyramid" of strategy application. Combine multiple approaches and top the process off with solid leadership.
TOP 20 INSIGHTSA classical strategy approach, i.e., "be the biggest," should be deployed in relatively stable and predictable markets with established competition. Homogenous business models are more likely to experience modest growth rates and few surprises or disruption. Most traditional businesses fall under this category but beware of the assumption that it applies to yours.
The turbulence of business return on sales has more than doubled since 1950, which has forced classical industries to re-think their approach. Analysis by BCG Strategy found that the top three market-share leaders' probability of also being the top three profitability leaders declined from 35% in 1955 to just 7% in 2013.
An author-created survey found that nearly 90% of firms intended to employ a classical approach of detailed forecasts, and 80% translate those into long-term plans. Classical shouldn't mean mechanical or overly complex, however. Use familiar tools to achieve new, uncomfortable, and surprising insights.
Emphasize scale if your business is among the top three in your industry. If not, focus on differentiation, especially if your targeted niche segment is sizeable. Products or services must be distinct and valuable to succeed. DHL invested $10 billion to enter the U.S. express freight business but struggled to compete until it focused on international delivery.
If you choose a classical strategy, you still need to adapt to slow but significant changes. Electrical utilities have deviated little over the last century but have begun to diversify into alternative energy sources. UPS employed a classical strategy in 1907 then adapted to e-commerce when it invested billions per year on IT systems.
Businesses should apply the adaptive strategy, i.e., "be fast," only when it operates in an environment that is both hard to predict and hard to shape. Examples include software, fashion, and any product that relies on minerals or resources, such as semiconductors.
Adaptive business models yield more consistent performance if you continually invest a portion of resources into the exploration of new options or adaptation. A simulation of 30 adaptive strategies executed within a turbulent environment showed more frequent but smaller drops in profit compared to a classical strategy.
Continually refresh your data on external change and have the analytic capabilities to uncover hidden patterns. Progressive Insurance uses its Snapshot program to track and analyze driver patterns, which creates real-time risk profiles for each customer. CEO Glenn Renwick called Snapshot one of the most important things he’d seen in his career.
An adaptive strategy can only succeed if you refuse to get comfortable. This attitude underpins
Post-Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity
By: Scott Galloway32-MINUTE AUDIO / 3,857 WORDS (15 PAGES)
SYNOPSISWhat will the world of business look like after the coronavirus pandemic? The pandemic will accelerate every trend by a decade and redefine entire industries. Foundational sectors like healthcare, education and transportation are on the verge of unprecedented disruption as the market rewards innovators like Tesla with massive valuations.
Scott Galloway, a professor at NYU Stern School of Business, presents a clear-eyed overview of this great transformation, the new business environment, Big Tech’s dominance, and who stands to win and lose in this new age.
TOP 20 INSIGHTSEcommerce's share of U.S. retail, which had been growing by one percent every year, jumped by 11% within eight weeks of the pandemic hitting the United States. The strong performance of big companies fueled the U.S. stock market recovery. However, medium companies declined, and smaller companies got hit the hardest. While the S&P registered growth by mid-July 2020, mid-caps were down 10%, and small caps dropped by 15%. Brands that were already going down, like JCPenny and Neiman Marcus, got hit the hardest.
A large portion of the stimulus capital that entered U.S. capital markets went towards innovative firms. Tesla's valuation exceeds Toyota, Daimler, Volkswagen and Honda combined, even though it will manufacture only 400,000 cars rather than 26 million cars manufactured by the other four in 2020.
Sectors will witness market consolidation around innovators or market giants with solid balance sheets, high-value assets, cheap debt and low fixed costs. Firms like Costco, Honeywell and Johnson and & Johnson, which have $11 billion, $15 billion and nearly $20 billion respectively in their bank accounts, will have their pick of assets and customers when weaker competitors shut down.
A company's survival depends on the sector's health and its position within it. Non-dominant companies within weak sectors must leverage current assets to pivot to new lines of business. Thryv Holdings, America's largest yellow pages company, used its relationship with thousands of small businesses to pivot into Customer Relationship Management.
Companies must become capital-light and move to a variable cost structure by leveraging other people's assets. Uber rents space in other people's cars driven by non-employees. So when revenue went to zero during the pandemic, Uber's costs went down by 60- 80%. Despite the hospitality industry taking a huge hit, Airbnb is well-positioned to take a more significant industry share.
82% of corporate leaders plan to allow partial remote work, and 47% intend to offer full-time remote work in their organizations. But remote work has its share of drawbacks. Serendipity is key to
Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions
By: Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths24-MINUTE AUDIO / 3046 WORDS (13 PAGES)
SYNOPSISCan computer science teach us the secrets of life? Perhaps not, but it can shed light on how certain everyday processes work and how to exploit them. Algorithms are everywhere, from following a recipe to the order in which you sort your email.
In Algorithms to Live By, programmer and researcher Brian Christian and psychology and cognitive science professor at UC Berkeley Tom Griffiths share the many ways that algorithms shape everything from the way we remember things to how we make big and small decisions.
TOP 20 INSIGHTSThe "37% rule" refers to a series of steps, or algorithms, that someone must follow to make the best decision within a set amount of time. Someone allots 37% of their time to research before they make a decision, then commits to the very next "best choice" they find.
The "explore/exploit" trade-off refers to the need to balance the tried and tested with the new and risky. The payoff of this algorithm depends entirely on how much time you have to make decisions. People are more likely to visit their favorite restaurant on their last night in town than risk something new.
Developed in 1952 by mathematician Herbert Robins, the "Win-Stay, Lose-Shift" algorithm uses slot machines as a metaphor. Choose a machine at random and play it until you lose. Then switch to another machine; this method was proven to be more reliable than chance.
A psychology study found that given choices, people often "over explore" rather than exploit a win. Given 15 opportunities to choose which slot machine would win, 47% used Win-Stay, Lose-Shift strategies, and 22% chose machines randomly instead of staying with a machine that paid out.
Hollywood is a prime example of the exploit tactic. The number of movie sequels has steadily increased over the last decade. In both 2013 and 2014, seven of the Top 10 films were either sequels or prequels. The trend is likely to change if new movie ideas draw more box office dollars.
The A/B test is similar to the two slot machine scenario in that you stick with the option that performs best. More than 90% of Google's $50 million in annual revenue is from paid advertisements, which means that explore/exploit algorithms power a large portion of the internet.
The Gittins Index provides a framework of odds that assume you have an indefinite amount of time to achieve the best payoff, but the chances reduce the longer you wait. For example: choose a slot machine with a track record of one-to-one wins/losses (50%) over the machine that has won nine out of 18 times.
"Upper Confidence Bound" algorithms offer more room for discovery than the "Win-Stay, Lose-Shift" method. This algorithm assigns a value based on what "could be" based on the information available. A new restaurant has a 50/50 chance to provide a good experience because you have never been there.
The "Shortest Processing Time" algorithm requires that you complete the quickest tasks first. Divide the importance of the task by how long it will take. Onl